Boatman Songs

Bengali literature and music in India have a rich heritage of boatman songs. Boats have been an integral part of journeys and separations in stories.

I am not sure if translations are allowed in the Poetics prompt, and I shall delete the piece if it violates rules.

The song I’ve chosen to translate here is from a classic Hindi movie made in 1963 – Bandini.


O, the one to leave the house
Come back if life allows….

Don’t forget, don’t wipe out
This shore, this path calls out…

your childhood pals
who stood by you…
will all go looking
for you in sorrow
moist eyes will ask for 
your whereabouts 

someone there reminds
you at each step
those who left 
for the other side
have not come back
Will someone tell us 
what’s the secret there
what’s it all about?

Don’t forget, don’t wipe out
This shore, this path calls out

O, the one to leave the house
Come back if life allows….

Original song

20 thoughts on “Boatman Songs

  1. Something happened an the site closed down as I tried to post my reply here. I hope it will work this time.
    I read your translation twice and watched the full video. Both are wondrous. I think many cultures have their boat songs….the idea of wondering what is there when one crosses to the other side, represented by the end of the ocean where the horizon and water meet…the sunset here. Also there are those who wait anxiously for their loved ones to return from their voyage out into the sea….be they Portugese fishermen out to sea to provide for the livelihood of their families. Either way….I am enamored with your words and the haunting aspect of the music…the tears on the face at the end of the video also relay this tremendous sadness…
    This is just a beautiful post! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really interesting to see a translation. There’s a lot of noise on social media at the moment about illustrators and translators getting proper recognition, so I think as long as you acknowledge the original fully and it’s an original translation it’s fine to give us one once in a while. I’d be sad not to see your own stuff!

    It’s such a universal theme – I think there must be songs in every language about women hoping their men will come back from sea. I’m thinking about Ireland and Scotland particularly, because those are the songs I heard in my childhood, but I’m sure there are songs in Spanish, French, Norwegian, all sorts of African and Asian languages. And I guess we all know that fear – even if someone’s just late home, there’s often a brief moment of “what if…!”.

    Lovely to hear the original. What a majestic face.


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